Bat Lane is a dusty, unpaved, crescent-shaped track that curves through a scruffy almond farm. One end of the trail empties behind Popeye’s: the first of the town’s noisy, boisterous bars serving over-elaborately decorated cocktails such as Blue Sky and Coco Loco. Each is adorned with plastic parrots, feathers, metallic streamers and sparklers. The multiple television screens serve up a constant and silent diet of British sports. Grim northerners sit supping John Smith’s bitter and staring gormlessly at the screen.
At sundown bats swoop through the pale street light feasting on the 100 billion insects that have been biting us tourists throughout the day. I resist the temptation to whack a low flying bat with the paddle from the swimming pool’s tennis game, despite the fact that the act would establish me back to my rightful spot at the top of the local food chain. Instead I wonder out loud (for the safety and information of my daughters) if a) the bats are rabid b) the old wives’ tale that bats build nests in long hair is true c) Ibiza is a popular retirement venue for vampires.
Ghostly and abandoned; an overgrown mini golf game and bar add to the horror film atmosphere of Bat Lane at night. It is mandatory to pick long pieces of dried grass and flick others on the back of the neck as the bats swoop. The only other buildings on the dirt paved track are a small villa, a ramshackle ice factory, our block of apartments and Mr Pineapple’s house.
Lambeth Bridge in London is accented by four large pineapples made of Portland stone. It marks the point where the exotic fruit was first brought ashore from boats on the Thames; giving Londoners their first taste of the sharp, sweetness. Pineapples soon came to represent affluence in polite 16th century society. To place a pineapple on one’s table suggested great wealth and prosperity and became the equivalent of today’s Cristal champagne. It showed you could afford the best.
As pineapples became more prevalent, so did their symbolic significance. The pineapple became a sign of hospitality. This is still evident in the Amish art work of Pennsylvania: the fruit takes pride of place in many hexes and barn art designs, welcoming visitors.
Our London neighbours have the largest house on Bat Lane. Their white geometric Spanish home stands shrouded in sea-grassed privacy. Two large stone pineapples sentinel the entrance.
Mr and Mrs Pineapple bought the house a few years ago. An elderly couple from Valencia were the former occupants and our neighbours have spent considerable time and care to renovate and improve the property. Little remains of the original property save the traditional front door and a heavy wooden crucifix which now hangs in our London bedroom.
At night, the patio of their Moorish inspired pool is bathed in green light. The bats are naturally attracted and flutter above as we sip San Miguel and watch the stars. When the bars close the sound of waves crashing on the Mediterranean shore can be heard echoing around the almond groves.
Across the street we have taken two of the 10 apartments. The block, the smaller villa, all the buildings on Bat Lane are owned by the same farmer: Mortie. Despite sounding like the father of a New York Jewish princess, Mortie is an aging Spanish man whose family own the almond farm. The same family own and work all the other buildings on the lane including our apartments.
Mortie had wanted to purchase Mr Pineapple’s house but was ultimately gazumped by our neighbours. This has caused bad blood between the two families reminiscent of a spaghetti western. Mortie undertakes the obscure and antiquated legal practice of denouncing every one of Mr Pineapple’s home improvements. It seems ‘denouncing’ is the equivalent of planning permission but without the paper work. I take the opportunity to illustrate the absurdity of the practice by announcing that almond farmer Mortie is at the door, ready to slap Mr Pineapple with a single glove; “Miz people is very poor and you have brought great deeshonour to our land senor.”
The remaining apartments are filled with three or seven-day occupancies. German, Spanish, Russian and Dutch can be heard coming from the windows. We lay back on the darkened patio watching the flashing lights of airplanes bringing them into the island’s only airport 20 miles to the south: from Frankfurt, Madrid, Moscow and Rotterdam. The bats race the airplanes before realising there are plenty of inspects to go around for the great steel birds to have their fill as well.
The London switch is in the off position. For weeks it will remain so. To flick it on again will set into motion the bustle, the stress, the existence enslaved to minutes and hours. I relax for the first time in months. I denounce the rat race lifestyle with the slap of a single glove.
Keep the Faith,